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Hello World

Friday, May 30, 2008

Hi, Everybody,

This is my first entry on I suppose this would constitute a blog, but you probably won't find too many extremely polarized opinions here

I really enjoy several aspects of music.... performing music, listening to it, arranging music, trying different styles, and playing various string instruments.


Back in Iowa, while I grew up, my family was really involved with music, as were my grandparents and great grandparents on my dad's side.  The instruments were mostly violin, piano and mandolin.  And there was interest in everything from barn dance music to old jazz to classical music.  My mother taught violin and piano: my dad played jazz piano, sang and played old fiddle tunes: my sister played violin and cello, and my dad's ancestors  years ago played quite often for barn dances.... and so did he, along with them.


I do have a few opinions I could harp on.... such as:

Memorize your favorite tunes.

Prospective fiddle players would really benefit from learning to read music, because they can pull songs from the really helpful collections of old fiddle tunes that are available now.... but they really should memorize many of their favorite fiddle tunes so they can focus on the playing and improvising, and not on the reading.

Promote fiddle tunes.

It would be really nice if the organizations that were formed to promote old time fiddle playing would do a lot more of that, and less of the electrified accompaniment of vocals.

Celtic and Baroque fiddle ornamentation.

I have a strong hunch that the ornamentation in Celtic fiddle playing is closely related to ornamentation in Baroque classical violin music, as described by Tartini, Rousseau and Leopold Mozart, but I haven't had time to study it out.

Good sound in videos of your music.

I would highly recommend a rather neat way to video tape our bands.... use a camcorder with an external mic jack,  use a Sony stereo microphone, and connect it to the camcorder with an extension cable around 20 feet long. Then put the microphone in front of the band, lashed to a mic stand, and place the camcorder back where you need it. I’m using a Panasonic PV GS35 mini-DV camcorder, because it has the external microphone jack. A GS36 does not.  I found that out after I bought it.

Cheap instruments have their uses.

Beware of inexpensive 5 string violins (with the added C string.) You get what you pay for. I bought a cheap one on ebay, and the C string sounds very weak.  It's nice to have the instrument though, so you can figure out how to play Bonnepart's Retreat on a five string fiddle, tuned D, A, D, A, D, like I think Byron Berline does.

Pitch problems: intentional, or an error.

I've heard folks say that some fiddle players intentionally experiment with deviating from our standard pitches.... ie, the twelve chromatic notes per octave.  From what I've heard, and from the violin teaching I’ve done over the years, I don't think it's an intentional experiment.  It seems more that they need to work harder at intonation.

Really cool fiddle playing.

Lately I've been listening to old LPs of French Canadian fiddle player Jean Carignan.  That guy is so good it's really scary.   I've been trying to play Devil's Dream like he does, and I can't get the left hand pizzicato to work.  I was never good at that anyway.  I used to really struggle with it in the Paganini Concerto #1... 3rd movement I think it was... and I never could do that very well.

So, there are a few of my current opinions. That's as close to a blog as I can come right now.


If you are just starting out and want to watch a few videos on very basic fiddle technique, try our website at


and go to the scroll to near the bottom of the main page, and click on Music Lessons., then scroll down to and click on Violin Lessons.  At least you might get a chuckle or two while watching the videos that should play in the various sections under Violin Lessons.  And maybe there would be something helpful there.  I must admit that these still need a fair amount of work.


I'm trying to think of some songs that I could post on the fiddle hangout web site.  Something tells me that I should avoid copyrighted songs.  But most fiddle tunes are not copyrighted, having been written before 1923.  But most everybody probably already knows the songs that I know.  Maybe just post some to share what we do around here would be fun. 


We have made around eight Christmas CDs full of songs, and like to give those away (or try to sell a few) around Christmas time.  But right now, it's not Christmas....   it’s tornado season in Kansas.  Not very conducive to Holly and the Ivy.

You all take care, and keep on playing tunes.


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Playing Since: 1957
Experience Level: Expert/Professional

[Teaching] [Jamming] [Socializing] [Helping]

Occupation: software engineer

Gender: Male
Age: 73

My Instruments:
violin, viola, 5-string violin, elementary cello; also mandolin, mandola, octave mandolin, bouzouki, mandocello, etc.

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
Kenny Baker, Stefane Grappelli, Jascha Heifetz, Blaine Sprouse, Byron Berline

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Created 2/12/2008
Last Visit 8/26/2015

BA in violin 1970; MA in violin 1971; played in Echo Mtn Boys, Pocatee Pickling Company, and Hillis Frank & Daniels in Iowa 1974-1977; played at Smithsonian Bicentenial folk festival 1976; taught as replacement violin prof at LSU Baton Rouge first semester 1979-1980; made seven Christmas CDs and fiddle tunes CD in home studio 1997-2007. Work as software engineer now in c++.

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